If you sleep with a sound machine, the chances are good that you are familiar with the hissing sound of white noise. The masking of sound through the use of fans or noise machines is an effective sleep aid. It is also known to increase productivity in the workplace. It turns out that white noise might even improve your hearing too! Researchers are now applying the concept of white noise to enhance the development of cochlear implants. Their findings indicate that continuous white noise helps people hear pure sounds with more precision.
White noise is a mixture of all of the distinct sound frequencies the human ear can hear. What we term white noise is the sound of all of the frequencies between 20 and 20,000 Hz. The adjective white is an appropriate descriptor because of the way white light is composed of all light combined. So, if you hear white noise, you are hearing the sound of 20,000 tones all at the same time! The effect causes all of the different tones to blur together and create a hissing or shushing sound. Although we know a scant amount of information regarding the perception of acoustic signals by the brain, it is clear that the better we can distinguish sound patterns, the more precise our ability to hear and distinguish certain sounds becomes.
The investigation focuses on sound perception and sound discrimination in demanding sound environments. The investigators are studying the auditory cortex, which is the area of the brain with the responsibility of processing acoustic stimuli.
The closer the sounds are in the frequency spectrum, the more difficult they become to distinguish. The researchers considered this information and felt that any additional noise would make hearing even more difficult. However, this was not to be the case. The brain’s capacity to distinguish subtle tone differences improves with additional noise. Noise facilitates auditory perception.
The data from the study indicates that white noise impedes the activity of the nerve cells in the auditory cortex leading to suppressed neuronal excitation. The result is a specific perception of pure tones. The researchers hope that the new information will aid the improvement of auditory perception in environments where sounds are hard to distinguish. Furthermore, the team believes that the frequency resolution of cochlear implants can improve with an effect like white noise to benefit the hearing of the implant user.
White noise is not just for sleeping anymore. It can also improve your hearing through the facilitation of auditory perception. The benefit to you is the ability to hear pure sounds with higher precision. If you have trouble hearing, the addition of white noise may not be enough. A hearing healthcare professional can conduct a thorough hearing evaluation for you. If your hearing is impaired, a specialist can diagnose and treat your hearing problem to enhance your quality of life. Please do not put it off, see a hearing healthcare professional today!